Riding the Storm Out: Packers hold off Sauk Rapids-Rice
Published 7:13 pm Wednesday, March 21, 2018
MINNEAPOLIS — The Austin boys basketball team knew it was going to have to man up inside to get past a physical opponent in the Minnesota Class AAA State Boys Basketball Tournament quarterfinals and that’s exactly what it did as it knocked off Sauk Rapids-Rice 64-55 in Williams Arena Thursday.
The Packers (27-2 overall) held SRR’s all-time leading scorer Cody Landwehr, a 6-foot, 7-inch Bemidji State commit, to zero points and 0-for-6 shooting in the second half after Landwehr had scored 13 points in a first half. Austin had led 30-27 at the break, but it came out running in the second half as it used a 10-2 run to take a 40-29 lead.
“I thought we got off to a good start to the second half and our ball movement was pretty good,” Fadness said. “I liked the way we started the second half, but I didn’t like the way it played out after that. We’re trying to play at a high standard and we’ve got to do a better job of keeping our composure and staying in the moment.”
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Austin senior Moses Issa scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half to lead the charge for Austin. He was 8-for-14 from the field and he added three rebounds and two blocked shots.
“I had a different mindset in the first half,” Issa said. “I had some state jitters and I had to shake them off and play better.”
Austin had some solid play in the paint from senior Nyagoa Obany, who 14 points, eight rebounds and four steals and he went six-for-seven from the field. Senior Logan Braaten had four points and three rebounds off the bench and he helped the Packers keep pace after the Storm (21-9 overall) had jumped out to a 6-2 lead. Braaten had a lay-up to bring Austin within 8-6 and he hit two freethrows to tie the game at 10-10 with 11:50 left in the first half. The Packers never trailed again.
“It’s really exciting to step on the court of my favorite college team. I’m just a role player and I’ve got such good players around me. I’ve got to have good minutes and good energy,” Braaten said. “When Nyagoa and I go one-on-one [in practice] there’s a lot of physicality and I think that makes both of us better players. When he can go through me instead of over me [in practice] that’s key.”
Landwehr had his way in the paint in the first half for the Storm, but the Austin defense collapsed on him in the second half, making things difficult.
“They’re speed and they’re length [hurt us],” Landwehr said. “It was hard to guard them and stay in front of them.”
SRR head coach Derek Peterson said his team wanted to keep the pace slow against the high-flying Packers. The Storm were able to do that for much of the game, but that four-minute stretch to start the second half proved costly.
“We did not want to play and up-and-down pace and there was a stretch where we did and that hurt us,” Peterson said. “We held a great Austin team to 64 points and I’m extremely proud of the kids and how they played defense. I think we played a great game against a great team.”
Fadness was a little frustrated with his team’s struggles on offense, but we was also quick to give credit to the Storm defense.
“I give Sauk Rapids a lot of credit. They hung in there and their big kid is a heck of a player,” Fadness said “They were able to get him in the middle and he made some plays. They hung around and I thought they did some nice things. At the same time, we had some sloppy play and we had some turnovers.”
Austin senior Tate Hebrink finished 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals and he went three-for-five from the field. He was happy to be moving on, but is ready to get on the court again.
“I feel like we could’ve played a lot better today,” Hebrink said. “We want to come out and play a lot better tomorrow. We’re going to have to.”
Austin will now look to the Minnesota Class AAA semifinals, where it will take on Delano at Target Center at 2 p.m. this afternoon. Delano (19-11 overall) beat Mankato East 79-64 in the state semifinals, but it did lose to SRR 72-54 on Jan. 16.
“We’re playing for a state championship. It’s survive and advance,” Fadness said. “If you can’t get excited and pumped up right now, you’ve got problems. I’m not a real rah rah guy and these guys are good at getting each other pumped up and getting each other going.”
SRR 27 28 — 55
Austin 30 34 — 64
Austin scoring: Moses Issa, 20; Nyagoa Obany, 14; Tate Hebrink, 12; Duoth Gach, 7; Ngor Deng, 4; Logan Braaten, 4; Medi Obang, 3; field goals: 44 percent (24-for-55); three-pointers: 27 percent (4-for-15); free throws: 63 percent (12-for-19); rebounds: 32 (Obany, 8); turnovers: 14